Jeter de l’Huile sur le Feu

A new immigration law passed in Arizona. French president Nicolas Sarkozy wants to ban the burqa in French public places. The burqa is a long dark cloak that covers the entire body including the face of some Muslim women. Belgium is splitting between the Flemish and the francophone.
When the world has never been more open, thanks to the internet and electronic communication, it is a paradox to read this week media in the US and Europe.
They tell of a world where frontiers of language and culture fall but at the same time of a world who wants more than ever to build new barriers. Although tougher legislations and stricter laws are voted and passed, ordinary people in their vast majority oppose them. As if they knew better than the governments that it just won’t work.
This week events tell of fear and non acceptance. They tell of a malaise about the other. Differences trigger suspicion so it’s easy to jump to conclusion and decide that anyone different can only be the source of our problems.
As a foreigner who has made her home in the US, I picked the right place since it is by definition the land of immigrants. It is also the only place on earth where your next door neighbor will always be willing to share stories about his or her ancestors.
So this is no surprise that many Americans express shock and shame when they discuss the Arizona law. We are all aware that illegal immigration is out of control and needs a reform but people don’t like a law that points fingers at men and women who look or talk a certain way.
French people also disagree. Should the burqa be seen as a choice from some Muslim women and thus respected? Or should it be banned because it is an obnoxious decision to shock French people? Most oppose a law they consider a political move since wearing the burqa is still marginal.
Belgium, split in two, blames the other half of the country for its economic problems. Yet, most Belgians express concern and share stories about their friendships with one another.
Maybe, it is time for our governments to listen to its people and stop “jeter de l’huile sur le feu” or throwing oil on the fire like my mother was telling me and my sister when we were fighting for nothing and being more inflammatory than needed.

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